In the City (2003)✭✭✭✭
In The City is an engrossing contemporary drama about a network of 30-something friends in Barcelona. There’s a housewife (Monica Lopez) who finds her sexual orientation mysteriously changing, an architect (Eduard Fernández) who discovers his wife’s adultery and a book store clerk (Maria Pujalte, in a great performance) who is unable to separate fantasy from reality when it comes to romance. The film is in essence a soap, but Cesc Gay’s direction lends the material a sense of clear-eyed conviction and believability. No doubt inspired by Almodovar’s success, Spain has developed a talented community of filmmakers, and I’m rapidly becoming a fan.
Torremolinos 73 (2003) ✭✭✭✭
In the delightfully wacky Torremolinos 73, a rather dull encyclopedia salesman (Javier Cámara) and his devoted wife (Candela Pena) combat economic hardship by becoming unlikely international porn stars. This Spanish import offers lots of fun and frolic, along with a number of film aficionado in-jokes. There’s plenty of skewering of 1970s fashions and Mads Mikkelsen is featured in a small role as a temperamental actor. Written and directed by Pablo Berger, whose new film Blancanieves is Spain’s submission to this year’s Academy Awards. In addition, the disc’s bonus material contains a selection of hilariously tacky trailers from movies directed by Radley Metzger, a B grade filmmaker who considered himself the Ingmar Bergman of soft-core porn.
The Magic of Belle Isle (2012) ✭✭✭✭1/2
Rob Reiner’s warm and enjoyable film is everything a sentimental Hollywood drama should be, and an excellent choice for family viewing. A embittered, hard drinking novelist (Morgan Freeman) retreats to an upstate New York vacation community for the summer, and eventually reconnects with humanity and his lost creativity. Despite its predictable and occasionally trite angles, the film succeeds due to Morgan Freeman, who once again proves he is among Hollywood’s all time great crafters of character. Even supporting actor Fred Willard --who’s been known to steal a scene or two himself-- can only sit and marvel at Freeman’s superb timing and charisma. Simply stated, Morgan Freeman is a national treasure.